Director of rugby Les Kiss has made eight personnel changes to the Ulster team that will face Munster at a sold-out Kingspan Stadium on Friday night (kick-off 7.05pm).
Dan Tuohy and Wiehahn Herbst have returned from long-term injuries and will make their first senior appearances of the season, having not featured since December 2015 and last January respectively.
The duo are two of five new faces introduced into the starting pack, with a further three changes made to the back-line for the crucial GUINNESS PRO12 derby encounter.
Herbst is part of a front row that also includes captain Rob Herring and loosehead prop Callum Black. Tuohy will join Franco van der Merwe in the second row, while Robbie Diack also returns to the starting line-up, featuring alongside Sean Reidy and Roger Wilson in the back row.
Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson are retained in the half-back positions, with Darren Cave joining Luke Marshall in midfield. Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy have been elevated from the bench to starting berths on the wing, so Charles Piutau – last week’s man-of-the-match against Exeter Chiefs – switches to full-back.
Conor Joyce could make his first appearance for the province in over two years after being named among the replacements. The 23-year-old back rower’s last outing was the memorable 19-17 win over Munster at Thomond Park in May 2014.
John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Andrew Warwick and Clive Ross will provide additional cover for the forwards, with Paul Marshall, Brett Herron and Jacob Stockdale included in the matchday squad as back-line options.
Unfortunately, after sustaining a hip flexor injury, Stuart Olding is likely to be out of action for at least two matches. As expected, Iain Henderson will also miss this weekend’s game. He has shown improvement this week following a shoulder injury picked up against Exeter and he will be continue to be assessed on a weekly basis.
ULSTER (v Munster): Charles Piutau; Tommy Bowe, Luke Marshall, Darren Cave, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rob Herring (capt), Wiehahn Herbst, Dan Tuohy, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Andrew Warwick, Clive Ross, Conor Joyce, Paul Marshall, Brett Herron, Jacob Stockdale.